Development experts say the infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is the key to fighting rural poverty. They say African leaders and donor nations are strongly committed to increasing both the quality and the quantity of infrastructure. Specialists say conditions in Africa today are right for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction if challenges are met and commitments are sustained.
Paul Jourdan is a consultant to the African Development Bank. From Johannesburg, in this first of a five-part series, he told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard that the time for investment in infrastructure is now.
The African Development Bank consultant says the success of the effort depends largely on the political will of the countries concerned, and that relates to governance. He says, "We have more countries with good governance; we have less conflict; Africa is now finally free since the last country, South Africa, moved into a democratic dispensation. So the timing is ripe, we believe." He adds that not all African countries currently enjoy good governance but that many more do now than ever before.
Jourdan says the last period of intense economic growth on the continent was the 1950s and ‘60s, when many African countries were colonies, "so this is, in fact, the first high intensity cycle [in which] Africa has sort of had the chance to invest."
Jourdan also says Africa is rich in natural resources but infrastructure is critical to realizing their potential because the resources tend to be in the interior, far from coastal areas. To get these resources on their way to world markets, waterways are needed and road, rail, ports, and power lines must put in place or upgraded.
DECISIONS YET TO MAKE
Jourdan says investment plans are still at an early stage and it still remains to be determined which resources to target and how much African countries are willing to invest.
The consultant says the primary stakeholders in infrastructure investment [in addition to the countries themselves] are the African Development Bank (ADB), the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the African Union, and regional economic groupings such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He says other stakeholders are the Union of North African States, the Central African Federation of States and the East African Community.
Jourdan says promising indicators include the current sustained phase of African growth (on average about five percent. And he says it’s important to note that infrastructure is only part of a larger strategy to develop Africa’s economy and industry.